You will find an introduction and outline of Isaiah, here.
A prayer to use before you read, from the Book of Common Worship.
O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Outline of Isaiah 1-39 (Based on Sheppard)
I. 1:1-31 Title and Prologue: Isaiah begins in a similar form as Amos and Hosea telling us who the prophet is and when he prophesied. Verses 2-20 use courtroom language as God accuses Israel. All of creation is witness to Israel’s faithlessness. Israel is spoken of as rebellious and corrupt children. Notice in verses 16-17 we learn what Israel’s sin is. Sacrifice and worship are unacceptable in an unjust society. Verses 18-20 are a plea for repentance and for Israel to return to God. In verses 21-31 God speaks as judge. Israel will be redeemed but the wicked will be punished. Notice again in these verses the emphasis on justice for the widowed and orphaned.
II. 2:1-39:8 The Testimony of Isaiah from the Death of King Uzziah to the End of Time
A.2:1-4:6 Promises of Judgments of Zion: This section begins with another superscription or title. Two promises bookend a series of judgment oracles. In 2:2-4 we are given a hopeful vision for the future. In 2:5-9 “House of Jacob” is another way of saying “Israel”. Israel has become like other nations. Verses 10-21 announce the future day of the Lord when the high, mighty, and proud will be brought down. 2:22-4:6 focuses on Jerusalem and Judah. There will be social upheaval as the leaders are gone and the people desperately search for leaders. In 3:12-4:1 there is court room language. Notice again what the failure of Israel is. 4:2-6 is a vision for what comes after judgment. Notice the fire and cloud imaginary which recalls God’s presence with Israel in the wilderness and in the Temple.
B. 5:1-7 The Song of the Vineyard: an allegory about Israel. There are word plays in the Hebrew in verse 7, “justice” “mishpat” and “bloodshed” “mispah”; and “righteousness” “tsedaqah” and “cry” “tse aqah”.
C. 5:8-30 One Side of a Framework of Judgment Against Ephraim and Judah: After chapters 6-9:7 the “other” side of judgment oracles (9:8-10:4) occurs bracketing Isaiah’s testimony (6:1-9:7). There are a series of “woes” (“Ah” in the NRSV), warning of the coming judgment. Again, notice what the sin of Israel is. Beginning with verse 25 is a description of the coming Assyrian attack. What does this section say about God’s relationship with other nations?
What would your summary of these chapters be? What has caused God to judge Israel? What must Israel do to be restored? What is God’s plan for the future?
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Isaiah.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 6, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 2001.
Sheppard, Gerald T. “Isaiah” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Sweeney, Marvin A. “Isaiah” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.